SCNEMO home South Carolina Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials banner
curved corner
back to papers & articles

Pilot Project Final Report – Waccamaw Watershed
by: Calvin B Sawyer, S.C. Sea Grant Extension Program


about SCNEMO
national nemo
what's new

EPA Grant Number – C 9994629-98
Grant Agreement Number – EQ-8-584
Project Number – 12
Fiscal Year – 1998
Project Period – May 1, 1998 through October 31, 2001
Lead Agency – SC Sea Grant Consortium
Principle Investigator – Calvin B. Sawyer

Project Summary
Outputs and Results
Appendix 1

Project Summary

The South Carolina Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program was designed and implemented around a simple goal: develop a program to educate elected and appointed local officials about the impacts of land use on water quality AND about options available to them for addressing those issues. Local officials including councils, planning commissions, planning staff, and many others play a significant role in the direction taken by a town or county towards growth and development. Since land use decisions are typically made at the local level, the NEMO hypothesis was that with the proper tools and information, these local officials could collectively play a significant role in reducing the degradation of water quality by making knowledgeable decisions regarding land use. The SC NEMO Pilot Project addressed these issues in the Waccamaw watershed, targeting officials in Georgetown and Horry counties (Figure 1). The identifiable results of the project are included within the body and appendices of this final report. Many intangible consequences of the work conducted, however, may not be available for some time.

Figure 1 – NEMO Presentation

NEMO pilot meeting

Project Background

Nonpoint Source Pollution - The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes that nonpoint source pollution (NPS) plays a majority role in the degradation of our nation’s water quality. In fact, EPA considers NPS to be the number one source of water quality problems in the United States (Devins, 2002, p.5). EPA reports that over one-third of the nation’s waters that have been assessed by states are still impaired and that nonpoint sources of water pollution are the primary reason (GAO, 1999, p.18). In particular, NPS is a major problem in areas experiencing urbanization and urban sprawl, such as the Waccamaw watershed in coastal South Carolina.

Numerous studies point to prolific installation of impervious surfaces as a primary culprit in water quality degradation. Impervious surfaces consist of materials such as asphalt and cement used for roads, parking lots, and driveways and roofs of houses and other structures that prevent the infiltration of runoff into the ground as well as increasing the frequency and severity of flooding. Specific studies have found that water quality generally begins to suffer or degrade once impervious cover reaches 10% within a watershed (Scheuler, 2000).

The Need for Educating Public Officials - Public officials, whether appointed or elected, do not necessarily have the background needed to make informed decisions regarding the many issues surrounding municipalities and counties today. This is especially true for planning commissions who are generally composed of laypersons. According to Streib, in today’s world, even local government positions “that do not require a great deal of specialized training involve the mastery of vast amounts of specialized information” (Streib, 1992, p.19). A major challenge for today’s local government agencies is to provide the appropriate training and develop experience needed for its managers and other constituents of local government to succeed (DeSario, Faerman, & Slack, 1994, p.51). Astonishingly, “local governments allocate less than one percent of their operating budgets to training and the acquisition of information and assistance” (DeSario,, 1994, p.98).

Land Use Planning - Planning in the United States began in the early 20th century in direct response to increasing urbanization and suburbanization (Slayter and Tyer, 2000, p.1). Today, state and local governments across the country are facing increased public pressure to address the consequences of urbanization and suburban sprawl. South Carolina is no exception. Like other states, South Carolina confers primary authority for land use decisions to local governments. Traditionally, local governments have used their zoning authority to regulate land use. In response to the 1994 Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act, local governments in South Carolina are revising their comprehensive land use plans and zoning laws. (SC Code of Laws, as amended, §§6-29-310 et. seq.) At the same time, many local governments are using their planning and zoning authority as tools for managing growth and development in their communities.

Relatively recent state legislation mandates SC counties and municipalities to develop and maintain a planning process (comprehensive plan) that includes inventorying existing conditions, identifying local needs and problems and providing strategies and time schedules for implementation. Comprehensive plans must contain seven key elements. The specific elements addressed by the NEMO program include natural resources and land use. The element “natural resources” is considered to be the inclusion of information on the variety of natural resources in the community, such as agricultural lands, forests, coastal resources, scenic views, wetlands, flood plains, mineral deposits, flora and fauna and so on. The element “land use” is considered to be the inclusion of information on existing and future land use by categories of use, such as residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and so on (Slayter and Tyer, 2000, p.17).

National NEMO - NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) is a program that was created in 1991 by the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System. The program is designed to educate local officials about the link between land use and water quality, thereby enabling these officials to make better decisions regarding land use planning and natural resource protection. By 1995, other states began to see the potential in NEMO and since then, 19 states have joined what is now called the National NEMO Network.

NEMO Program Development and Delivery
The Pilot SC NEMO project began by having to overcome several administrative hurdles. The individual who applied for and received the Section 319 grant promptly resigned from his position to pursue a graduate business degree. A new coastal environmental quality specialist was hired, only to be followed by the resignation of another key project member, the coastal communities specialist. It was not until the grant was in place for 1.5 years that a full complement of project cooperators was in place and ready to proceed with program development and delivery. While these setbacks delayed the full implementation of the pilot program, their effects were quickly addressed and all milestones have been met or exceeded.

The first order of business was to establish a Watershed Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The committee was organized to provide professional and technical expertise in the development of all NEMO educational tools. The TAC (Appendix 2a) was comprised of local planners, university researchers, state regulatory agency staff, county public works directors, GIS experts, and water quality staff from the Waccamaw Regional Planning and Development Council. There were three (3) TAC meetings held throughout the term of the grant. Each meeting had a specific agenda (Appendix 2b) so time would be spent in the most constructive way. The TAC provided input to the development of the final NEMO presentations, fact sheets, workshop invitation lists, and numerous other project details. Their service was invaluable, and with the exception of NEMO team members, was strictly voluntary.

The next critical order of business was the concurrent development of the NEMO fact sheet series and the formal presentation framework. Following input from the TAC and Connecticut NEMO team, fact sheets were written and edited on several topics of importance (Appendix 3a). Subject matter included

   • SC NEMO Project Brief
   • Nonpoint Source Water Pollution
   • Impacts of Development on Waterways
   • Strategies for Coping with Polluted Runoff
   • Protecting Your Watershed from Polluted Runoff
   • Raising the Issue of Polluted Runoff at Public Meetings
   • Reviewing Site Plans for Stormwater Management
   • Open Space Planning
   • Techniques for Developing an Open Space Plan
   • Conservation Easements
   • Transfer of Development Rights

Another important component of the fact sheet series was a matrix that provided information on structural Best Management Practices (BMPs). The BMP matrix (Appendix 3b) included definitions, advantages and disadvantages of specific options, and then a relative cost to implement section. The target audience was able to compare and contrast different BMPs across the matrix to determine which option might be best for their own communities.

One of the most important tasks was the formulation of the framework for the formal NEMO presentation. It was decided early that a presentation developed in MS PowerPoint would be the best option. This particular software would allow NEMO team members to easily move between presentations and insert appropriate information. The formal presentation could also be modified (where appropriate) to meet specific time constraints that may be in place for workshops, board meetings, chamber of commerce talks, etc. This flexibility would ultimately prove very important, because NEMO talks have varied in length from ten (10) minute briefings to half-day workshops.

Six (6) different sections comprise the formal NEMO presentation (Appendix 4 and attached CD-ROM):

    1. The impacts of development on the water cycle
    2. The constituents of polluted runoff

    3. Land use impacts on water quality

    4. Using watershed as a framework

    5. The importance of imperviousness

    6. What elected and appointed officials can do

The final section goes into detail about the three-tiered NEMO strategy for coping with polluted runoff. Attendees are presented with information on natural resource based planning, the importance of innovative site design, and finally the implementation of BMPs and remediation where it can be most effective.

The generation of various maps was an important building block in the program development process. Maps would be used for displaying land cover across the study area, surface water impairments, estimated impervious cover, and land use buildout analysis. The Waccamaw Regional Planning and Development Council, the regional council of governments (COG), was responsible for the collection of appropriate data and ultimately the aggregation of those data into a useable format for NEMO team members. The Waccamaw COG final report and CD-ROM are attached to this report as Appendix 5. Any questions regarding data file access, formatting or metadata should be directed to the Waccamaw COG.

Over the course of the entire grant period there were 29 different NEMO presentations given throughout the study area and the rest of the state on behalf of the pilot project. Requested talks were given to civic groups, non-governmental organizations, environmental advocacy groups, and local chambers of commerce in order to generate interest and knowledge about the NEMO program. Most of these “informal” presentations did not include program evaluations.

The “formal” presentation process involved a significant amount of logistical planning. Workshop lists were generated. Invitation letters were composed and sent to participants. The invitation lists included local town councils, town planning commissions, county council, county planning commissions, public works officials, and the local press. There were three (3) such meetings conducted by the NEMO team throughout the study area (Figure 2)

Figure 2 – Typical NEMO Workshops

NEMO workshop

On June 28, 1999 a workshop was held for officials from throughout Georgetown County at the Waccamaw COG. Copies of the invitation letter, workshop agenda, and sign in sheet are provided in
Appendix 6. The second “formal” workshop was held for officials along the Grand Strand on June 19, 2000 at the Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach. Corresponding materials are provided in Appendix 7. The final “formal” workshop was held on September 20, 2001 for Horry County Officials at Coastal Carolina University in Conway. Corresponding workshop materials, including copies of the workbook provided to participants are provided in Appendix 8.

Generating interest in the NEMO program through newspaper articles, radio and television, press releases and journal publications was important to project success. Throughout the term of the pilot project, there were thirteen (13) local newspaper articles, nine (9) state and regional newsletter features, two (2) published articles in conference proceedings, two (2) stories by local television stations, and two (2) appearances on the Midday (regional) program. The exposure provided by this media attention might have created interest in some of the elected and appointed officials to attend one of our workshops. A collection of local, regional and statewide articles and stories about NEMO is provided in Appendix 9.

At each workshop, a baseline quiz (Appendix 10a) was also written and administered to each participant in order to determine their level of knowledge prior to program delivery. These baseline quizzes were analyzed and the complete results are shown Appendix 10b. Although the participants performed well on the baseline quizzes as a whole, there were certain topics that certainly provided evidence regarding the need for nonpoint source pollution education. One specific example was baseline quiz question 3 (Figure 3).

Figure 3 – Baseline Quiz Question 3

question 3 chart

While 76% of the participants answered the question correctly, almost one quarter (24%) incorrectly assumed the stormwater went to a treatment facility, infiltrated into the groundwater, or entered a large underground reservoir. The important point being that many elected and appointed officials have a fundamental misunderstanding of very basic stormwater principles. These and other quiz results confirmed the need for educational programs of this nature.

DeSario Jack P., Sue R. Faerman, and James D. Slack. 1994. Local Government Information and Training Needs in the 21st Century. Westport, Connecticut: Quorum Books.

Devins, Colleen. 2002. “A Common Thread.” Tributaries: the Membership Magazine of the South Carolina Aquarium 9:4-6.

Government Accounting Office. 1999. p.18.

Schueler, Thomas R. 2000 “The Importance of Imperviousness,” Pages 1-12 in The Practice of Watershed Protection edited by Thomas R. Schueler and Heather K. Holland. Ellicott City, Maryland: Center for Watershed Protection.

Slayter, Philip and Charlie Tyer. 2000. Local Officials Guide to Comprehensive Planning. Columbia, SC: Center for Governance, Institute of Public Affairs, University of South Carolina.

Streib, Gregory. 1992. “Professional skill and support for democratic principles: the case of local government department heads in Northern Illinois.” Administration & Society 24:19-40.

Outputs and Results

top of page


home  |  about scnemo   watersheds   resources  |  partners  |  publications
national nemo
  |  what's new  |  contacts  |  links  |  feedback  |  sitemap

Copyright © 2005 South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, Privacy & Accessibility Statements
This page updated on: